Friday, December 20, 2019

Some places are worth visiting more than once and the historical destination of Aachen, Germany’s most westerly city, is one of those.

Since moving abroad in 2010, we’ve visited Germany nearly every year since then, mainly because we have good friends in Düsseldorf. Plus, we like visiting Germany for its overabundant supply of pork products (especially the years we lived in Istanbul), delightful Christmas markets, numerous museums and beautiful scenery.

Earlier this month, we returned to Germany for a weekend trip to catch up with friends and visit some seasonal Christmas markets. A 90-minute train journey from Düsseldorf took us to Aachen, which we previously had visited in 2014. (See: 13 German Christmas Markets in 5 Days). 

We also travelled with a special one-day DB train ticket that allowed us to travel as much as we wanted with up to five people in the region for about 45 euros. Why can't UK train prices be like this?

Aachen developed from a Roman settlement and spa town and later became the preferred medieval Imperial residence of Emperor Charlemagne. From 936 to 1531, Aachen, and specifically the Aachen Cathedral, was the place where 31 Holy Roman Emperors were crowned Kings of the Germans. Historically, Aachen was one of Europe's most important cities due to its position near the Dutch and Belgian borders.
From the middle of November to December 23 of this year, the cobbled streets near the Cathedral and the baroque Aachen Town Hall are transformed into a Christmas paradise with wooden huts selling everything from woolen hats and Christmas decorations to local chocolates and gingerbread-like cookies called Aachener Printen and more tasty delights. The Aachen Christmas Market, as we re-discovered, is quite popular with tourists, even on a weekday morning, and attracts approximately 1.5 million visitors every year during those four weeks.

During our short visit, the weather was absolutely terrible – downpour rain and blustery winds – so we basically stopped at the first covered, heated glühwein stand and stayed there for two glasses of warming, spiced wine and some nibbles.

Aachener Printen
If you love sweet treats like I do, don’t miss the local bakeries that sell the crispy gingerbread cookies locally known as Aachener Printen. We avoided the big chain bakeries in town and found some delicious chocolate-covered printen at Klein Printenbackerei. The young sales guy here let us try all the different varieties – soft and crispy, then covered in dark, milk or white chocolate. The dark chocolate-covered crispy ones were my favorite!

Aachen Cathedral
Since the Christmas markets surround the UNESCO-designated Aachen Cathedral, we popped in to take some photos. Emperor Charlemagne ordered the construction of this Roman Cathedral in the 8th century and was buried there just a couple years later in 814. What’s interesting here is that the octagon in the center of the Cathedral was built in the same style of other contemporary Byzantine buildings such as the Little Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. The cathedral’s interior architecture reminded me of so many different buildings we had seen in Turkey as well as Moorish architecture we’ve recently seen in Spain.
If you don’t have time to visit Aachen for the Christmas markets this year, I would highly recommend planning a stop here next year.



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